My birthday present to myself this year was a dissection course.
Not everyone's idea of a great present I agree, but having met Gil Hedley in San Diego last November, my interest had been piqued and I felt ready to begin my journey of understanding deeper into the human body.
I was advised wisely to book the shorter two day course to begin to make sure I was ready and able to enjoy it and to make the most of both a time and financial commitment.
That’s how last week I found myself waiting in a locker room in the Human Anatomy Unit of imperial College London.
We were a small group that morning. All with our own reasons for attending, all slightly anxious but excited.
The days were led by Julian Baker ( Functional Fascia) and Gary Carter (Natural Bodies.) It was a fantastic opportunity to learn from these expert tutors who were happy to spend time explaining and sharing their vast experience and expertise in their respective fields, answering questions and revisiting information when we needed more time.
Each day began with the group talking and setting an agenda for the day’s discoveries. This was an important time because allowed to me to settle into the laboratory and familiarise myself with my unfamiliar surroundings.
Strict protocols surrounding the dissections were explained to us and we learned and saw how the bodies were treated with the utmost respect and absolute dignity.
After this we put on gowns, gloves and glasses and began the days exploration. On the first morning I was happier to observe and ask questions, not yet ready to touch or become more hands on with the specimens and there was no pressure to do so . I felt comfortable in the group knowing that our personal decisions regarding how much or how little you wished to interact would be respected.
When, after lunch I again had the option to participate in the dissection, I made it clear I was still not ready and again I was allowed to be as involved as I felt able.
I was shown some of the preserved lower limb specimens and after having aspects explained to me in this way it helped build my confidence. So on returning to the table, and taking the day at my own pace I did feel able to go more deeply into the experience.
At the end of the day we had time to talk about our experience and we were encouraged to "decompress". I had learnt a lot but at that point I was still unsure how I felt about returning the next day.
I went home, showered, played with my children, read them stories and cuddled them.
But it wasn’t until after the children were asleep and my husband passed me a cold glass of wine that I realised the full impact of the day. Suddenly I found myself speaking nonstop in an overexcited, intense train of thought. It sounded just like my 3 year olds recounting their day to me! I knew I couldn't wait to return and continue my journey.
What have I learnt?
The human body is beautiful, the pearl-essence of the femur head, the rainbow of colours in the tissues, the genius of structures. It is breath-taking.
I learnt so much I am still processing it all, and I now have new questions.
Is it applicable to my work as a Pilates educator?
Do I want to do it again?
In a heartbeat.
In quiet moments I find myself drifting back to that room, those people, their amazing bodies and the words of Julian Baker return to me.
"You think these guys are amazing in here, look outside, in the street. We are all amazing."
Everyone of us.
An important footnote....
I will never underestimate the generosity of the donors and their gift to us. It has made me reconsider how to plan for my future.